My Approach to Design

Cybernetics, scales, craft and a wrench.

As an individual designer, I have the most experience in creating communicative visuals. As a member of cross-disciplinary teams I have brought in a lot of value being a visual designer and design generalist. This has led me to observe my own approach and contextualise the relationship between the craft of a medium and a multidisciplinary design process.

Location in the Landscape

To locate design in relationship to other historic practices such as art, science and engineering I like to use this diagram. Design resides in the corner of production and culture, between engineering and art, within the spectrum of behaviour and utility.

MIT Media Lab, The journal of design and science

Cybernetics; A cyclic process

Design is a dynamic interdisciplinary and cybernetic practice of giving shape to materials and experiences in different scales towards articulated goals.

Cybernetics comes from the greek word Kyber which essentially means to steer. This term was then used to describe different regulatory systems in biology, computing paradigms. It is a cycle of sensing, deciding and acting upon a particular signal towards some goals. Activities such as design and engineering which gives shape and function to our environment, follows this principle at a schematic level.

Within design there are different disciplines based on the senses and functions in which they operate. My core interest is in visual communication which operates through mediums like, graphics, video, animation, publication. Over a spectrum it crosses over to a more functional and behavioural realm of interaction design. Each medium and discipline carries its own set of processes, skills, tools and sensibilities but follows a similar cyclical approach. The making process in most cases become a nested cyclical process within a larger process.

Scales

It is important to start from a place of what is known and available and move towards the scales that will complete the process.

Nonlinearity

During a design process, it is not possible or conducive to be inflexible with the starting point. There are times when one has to create visual elements before being able to articulate what the goal of the process might be, or work with a set of actors or a space to create a story or mood before writing a script, or tinker with a technology to see its possibilities and limitations in order to create an goal driven process.

Craft

At the more smaller scales, the craftsmanship and familiarity with the tools concerned comes into play. For example one needs to have an experience of working with typography, or photography and principles of combining them to create elements that could be then used to create a brochure. By moving through different scales and placing them back into a cyclical process of analysis, comparison and making the design process picks up momentum. The designer innate knowledge and the collection of feedback guides the decision making process of how and when to move between scales.

The wrench

Within this process of craft and making it’s important to remember that most design artifacts engages with culture and aesthetics more than the rational side of the audience or user. In order to create something that might be surprising to the designer and the audience one has to shake up the process a bit by adding some noise or unexpected element. This tension sets up the designer to explore and negotiate the visual making process in unpredictable ways. These results can then be measured with smaller audiences and improved upon. As the saying goes “throwing in a wrench” becomes a part of my approach at the moment limited to the smaller scales of the process specifically in the design of visual elements and aesthetics.

Design Thinking, Creative Direction and Craft

Even though design thinking is nowadays taught independently and separated from any specific material craft, I feel that the ability to evaluate and shape an intangible experiences, product or system is a scaled up understanding that comes from having engaged with some craft or the other. I feel the need to keep practicing between different scales in order for one to inform the other. As a design generalist and visual designer I will keep a parallel practice of working between the craft of a medium and the system to which it will belong in order to grow my practice and value.